The Deadliest and Most Dangerous Animals in North America

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Nature can be terrifying at times, and movies like “Jaws” and “The Revenant” have amplified this fear. These films might have led us to view certain animals with more alarm than they actually warrant in real life. But how likely are you to actually need a bigger boat for a shark encounter or find yourself wrestling a bear like Leonardo DiCaprio in real life?

A study by Outforia, an outdoor experiences website, shed light on the frequency and location of fatal wildlife attacks in North America since 1970, using data to determine which animals pose the greatest danger to humans. 

In the United States, Texas is the state with the highest number of animal-related fatalities, recording a staggering 520 deaths over a two-decade period. The state significantly outpaces California, Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee, which also reported high numbers of incidents.

Here are the deadliest and most dangerous animals in North America.

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8. Wolf

Fatal attacks since the 1970s: 2

Wolves are often portrayed as fierce pack animals, and while they are indeed capable of deadly attacks, such cases are extremely rare in North America. Predominantly living in remote areas, wolves generally avoid human contact. Most attacks have historically been attributed to rabid or habituated wolves. In the very unlikely event that you encounter a wolf, maintain eye contact, make yourself appear larger, and back away slowly — do not run.

Image Credit: slowmotiongli / istockphoto.

7. Polar Bear

Fatal attacks since the 1970s: 10

The largest land carnivores are primarily found in the Arctic regions and are majestic but also potentially lethal. Polar bears in the United States are predominantly found in Alaska, as it provides the necessary conditions and habitat for their survival. The most recent attack happened in January 2023 in Wales, Alaska, when a mother and her one-year-old son were killed by a polar bear near their community school. While tragic, this event was highly unusual and marked the first such incident since 1990, making it a rare occurrence.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

6. Cougar

Fatal attacks since the 1970s:  16

Also known as mountain lions, cougars inhabit various environments across the Americas. While cougars have historically roamed throughout North and South America, their numbers in the eastern U.S. have drastically declined due to extensive hunting and loss of habitat. Although cougar attacks on humans are uncommon, they can happen, particularly with young cougars that are testing their boundaries. In the event of an encounter, do not run — instead, stand tall, make noise, and try to appear intimidating while throwing objects if necessary.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

5. Alligator

Fatal attacks since the 1970s: 33

Alligators are thriving in the southeastern United States, with a population estimated at around 5 million. Florida and Louisiana are hot spots, hosting nearly 3 million alligators between them, and substantial numbers also inhabit Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and the Carolinas. Alligators are mighty reptiles that can pose a great threat to humans, especially in or near freshwater environments. Attacks are usually a case of mistaken identity or territorial defense. It’s advisable to keep a safe distance from water bodies known to be alligator habitats and never to feed wild alligators.

Image Credit: BirdImages.

4. Black Bear

Fatal attacks since the 1970s: 54

Black bears are the most common bear species in North America, with an estimated population of 300,000 to 400,000 in the United States. They are spread out across at least 40 states, with some of the largest populations in California, where there are about 30,000 to 40,000 bears; Pennsylvania, with around 20,000; Wisconsin, which has roughly 24,000; and North Carolina, with around 15,000. While fatal black bear attacks are extremely rare — especially ones predatory in nature — they do happen. The most recent fatal black bear attack in the United States occurred in June 2023 in Arizona, when a 66-year-old man from Tucson was fatally mauled by a black bear while drinking coffee on his property in the Groom Creek area of Yavapai County.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

3. Shark

Fatal attacks since the 1970s: 57

While shark attacks are a popular media topic, they are not as common as one might expect. Most shark attacks are cases of mistaken identity in murky waters. To reduce risk, avoid swimming at dawn or dusk and stay clear of fishing areas. If attacked, aim to strike the shark’s sensitive eyes or gills defensively.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

2. Snake

Fatal attacks since the 1970s: 57 

Each year, venomous snakes like rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths are responsible for a considerable number of bites. Thankfully, not all of these bites are fatal, but their frequent encounters with humans definitely keep them high on the danger list. In the United States alone, there are approximately 127 species of snakes, of which about 30 are venomous. The deadliest among these is the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

1. Brown Bear

Fatal attacks since the 1970s: 70 

The brown bear, particularly the grizzly, is considered the deadliest wild animal in North America. The population of brown bears in the United States is primarily concentrated in Alaska, with more than 30,000 bears inhabiting the state. Other states with populations of brown bears include Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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